Lens review

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L IS USM

17 March 2018
Arkadiusz Olech

10. Autofocus

The Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L USM IS is equipped with an ultrasonic autofocus motor. The focusing mechanism is quiet but hardly noiseless - the hum of moving elements proved to be easily audible.

We weren’t bowled over by the autofocus speed either. In the case of both Canons the 5D Mark III and the 50D, running through the whole distance scale and setting the focus takes about 0.7-0.8 of a second. It seems that the mechanism is a bit quicker while going from the infinity to the minimum focusing than the other way round. While attached to the EOS 5Ds the tested lens works a tad faster too but that difference is not huge.

During our sample shots session we weren’t exactly impressed by the accuracy of the mechanism so we decided to take a closer look at it in the studio. In order to do that we set the Canon EOS 5Ds camera with the lens attached to it before our testing chart, applied the f/2.8 aperture and, oversharpening the lens every single time, we took several dozen of photos. 39% of shots were beyond reproach so their MTFs didn’t differ from the maximum results by more than 10%. Fully acceptable photos, so those which MTFs were within 80-90% of the maximum results constituted 29% of the whole. There were as much as 30% of slightly out-of-focus photos (with MTFs ranging from 70 to 80% of the maximum value) and 2% of all shots were complete misses (with MTFs worse than 70% of the maximum resolution). This is not a performance you would expect from an expensive L-series instrument.

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When it comes to front or back focus tendency there were no problems as long as the lens was attached to both ‘5-series’ bodies. We saw a very slight back-focus, corrigible by microregulation only when we put the lens on the 50D.

Canon 50D, f/1.4
Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L IS USM - Autofocus
Canon 5D MkIII, f/1.4
Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L IS USM - Autofocus
Canon 5Ds, f/1.4
Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L IS USM - Autofocus